It is May, which for most of us means warmer temperatures, more sun, and the beckoning call of the barbeque. But for those days when it’s raining, excessively windy or otherwise dreary outside, a soup or stew is in order. And there are days you just need something creamy and warm to comfort your belly. When I decided to make this stew last night, comforting food was just what I needed. I’d had a bad day, where something I ate this past weekend was wreaking havoc on my system. I needed comfort, but I needed it to be relatively easy on the tummy, and more substantial than a broth – because I was also starving! This stew was a miracle worker – it soothed some of the aches and pains, and it warmed and filled my belly. It was comfort in a whole new way.
Of course, you don’t have to be in need of healing to decide on a stew such as this. It’s ready in under an hour, is made with fresh ingredients, is gluten-free and dairy-free, and pretty darn healthy – what’s not to love? What was also amazing, in my opinion, was that it reheats beautifully. I enjoyed leftovers for lunch today, and the fish remained moist and flavorful. I can only imagine it would be a definite family-pleaser, and different from the usual weeknight routine.
I opted for tilapia in this recipe – not that tilapia is an authentic choice, it’s just inexpensive and sustainable, and it’s what I had on hand. Most recipes I’ve seen call for an oilier fish, which would be lovely. I could also imagine shrimp would make an excellent substitute. I also didn’t have dende (palm) oil on hand, so I simply omitted it, using olive oil instead. (Definitely going to keep my eye out for it though!) Vegan? I haven’t tried this recipe “veganized”, but I would imagine that substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock and clam juice, and adding a diced potato (not Idaho, I would go for something more like a red-skinned potato or a Yukon Gold) and/or adding extra veggies might work well here. (I could have totally subsisted on the tomato-ey, fragrant coconut milk broth alone – just saying!)
1 ½ lbs tilapia, cut into 2-inch chunks
¼ c lime juice
5 T olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 inch piece of ginger, minced and divided
3 scallions, sliced
4 T cilantro, chopped and divided
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 bay leaf
1 bottle clam juice
1 c low-sodium or homemade chicken stock
1 c coconut milk
2 T tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the tilapia, lime juice, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, half the garlic, half the ginger, the scallions, and half the cilantro in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute. Add the bay leaf, clam juice, chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk and tomato paste and return to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add tilapia chunks and cook for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Add the diced tomatoes at the last minute, just long enough to heat through. Serve with jasmine rice, garnished with remaining cilantro.